Omri Teg’Amlak Avera
Young Fet’gu is part of Beta Israel, an observant Jewish community in Ethiopia which prays to return to Jerusalem from which it has been exiled for centuries. Fet’gu spends his days quietly as a shepherd, but his routine is broken when the community decides to set out on the arduous journey to Jerusalem. Before they leave, Fet’gu discovers that, like his grandmother, he has special powers and can communicate with the Asterai, a divine bird that reveals to him the wisdom of his Jewish Ethiopian heritage.
In spite of this, Fet’gu finds the journey terribly difficult--first the trek through the Sudanese desert, where the community suffer from hunger and disease as well as bandits, then the refugee camp where they must hide their Jewish identity and destination. However, the hardship does not end when they finally reach Israel, and their dreams give way to disappointment. Fet’gu must deal with patronizing attitudes and discrimination; he is sent to a boarding school where he almost loses his ethnic identity. However, the Asterai appears to him again and reminds him of his heritage. Finally, he decides to overcome all and works towards peace of mind for his community and himself in the land they had dreamed of for so long.
Asterai is a book that deserves love. It tells a delicate, spiritual story about the painful encounter between Ethiopian immigrants and the not-so-spiritual reality of Israel.
A pleasant surprise... In simple and sensitive language, Avera depicts the richness of a world unfamiliar to most of us.
This first novel by a young immigrant from Ethiopia combines reality with fantasy... an excellent gift.